Announcing Seed Grantees for the Sloan Centers for Systemic Change

January 11, 2024

Ten U.S. Universities Selected to Advance Systemic Change in Doctoral STEM Education

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is pleased to announce the recipients of grants totaling $2.5 million to ten U.S. universities, with the goal of transforming their doctoral education programs in STEM fields to remove entrenched barriers to student success, improve student outcomes, and create educational environments that are more effective and equitable for all.

The grants mark the beginning of a new phase of grantmaking in the Sloan Foundation’s Higher Education program, and they represent the first step of a multi-year, $30 million commitment. Selected through a competitive nationwide search, the ten award recipients are:

  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of Colorado, Boulder
  • University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • The Ohio State University
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • Portland State University
  • Purdue University
  • University of Texas, El Paso
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison

Each institution has received a two-year, $250,000 seed grant to develop plans and begin implementation of evidence-based policies and practices that will advance a mission of equitable and diverse physical science and engineering doctoral programs with a focus on improving recruitment, retention, and graduation outcomes.

The goal of this work is the systemic reform of structures that disproportionately burden Black, Indigenous, and Latina/o/e individuals in graduate education, barriers that can affect other students as well. In addition to the grant award, Sloan is supporting each institution’s participation in the Equity in Graduate Education Consortium, a networked improvement community that equips participants with research, tools, and change management strategies to achieve systemic change.

Applications for funding were assessed for the quality of planned activities, the breadth of participating departments on campus, and the depth of institutional commitment to identifying and addressing systemic barriers to success in graduate education.

“We know that we can make graduate education in STEM better for everyone,” says Adam Falk, President of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “But systemic change is hard. What stands out about these institutions is their level of commitment and readiness. These are campuses that have a vision for how to do better and are eager to take the next step.”

The Sloan Centers for Systemic Change (SCSC) initiative builds on Sloan’s University Centers for Exemplary Mentoring (UCEM) program, now concluding. That program aimed to bolster student success in graduate study through a combination of fellowship support, strong mentoring, and student-centered professional development. An independent assessment of the UCEM program found large, positive impacts on student outcomes, including much higher retention and graduation rates of participating Sloan Scholars than are observed nationally for underrepresented students.

“We’ve learned a lot from our UCEM institutions and from the scholars we’ve supported there,” said Lorelle L. Espinosa, program director of the Sloan Foundation’s grantmaking in higher education. “These new grants are designed to move beyond a focus on individual student success to also include changing the educational environment itself, using approaches that are legally sustainable.”

At the end of a successful two-year seed grant period, institutions will be eligible to apply for four-year, $1.4 million implementation grants from Sloan, which include scholarship funds for students in participating departments. “The next two years are about laying the foundations for success,” said Espinosa. “I have no doubt that these ten institutions are well on their way to becoming national leaders in reshaping STEM doctoral programs in ways that allow every student not only to succeed but to thrive.”

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